Information overload (2023) Claire Bishop criticises the aestheticization of research in the context of contemporary art. The article establishes a trajectory for how the artists research we are witnessing today has been defined and portrays its present impasse. I like how youtube searches and wikipedia browsing become defined as “search” and “research” is constituted as something which changes our understanding and perception. I agree with their critique but also question if artistic research displays, which the article dissects, have ever been produced to be made sense of to begin with.
When studying for my first artist degree at the TAMK polytechnic in Tampere, we were taught to fake research. Our teachers knew that we would be outmatched in resources, so they provided us skills in making appearances. Site-specific art was taught primarily as a search of site related historical nick-nacks, which were then casually referenced to establish a historical backdrop for contemporary actions. In Bishops terms it was done to make the art appear “serious”. In practice this was done, to convince funders (city officials) that art has a place in society. This is still a necessary strategy.
Because I approached research as a rhetoric technique for establishing a sense of certainty, it took me years to begin believing that artists honestly engage in it. I still believe that in the Finnish academic context research is deployed for appearances. But I know that these appearances matter for our economy. Growth in Finland depends on portraying Finns as designers not labourers, so that we can imagine a place in global markets. I’m very pleased to how Bishop ends the article.
The richest possibilities for research-based installation emerge when preexisting information is not simply cut and pasted, aggregated, and dropped in a vitrine but metabolized by an idiosyncratic thinker who feels their way through the world. Such artists show that interpretative syntheses need not be incompatible with a decentered subject and that an unforgettable story-image can also be a subversive counterhistory, packing all the more punch because imaginatively and artfully delivered.
Bishops article is contrasted by Pamela Paul’s A Paper That Says Science Should Be Impartial Was Rejected by Major Journals. You Can’t Make This Up (2023), which is cry for hard sciences to return with hard facts. Similarly When Does Artistic Research Become Fake News? Forensic Architecture Keeps Dodging The Question (2023) Emily Watlington works to re-establish an ethos of objectivity in research.
Both efforts miss the point about post-truth… Which is that there is no truth. This results into a lack of meaning in some but Clair Bishop offers validating comfort for both in one sentence: “The self becomes a glue that enables the debris of the past to stick together, at least temporarily.”